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Terminator Genisys
Terminator Genisys
Price: $18.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not as good as the first or second movie, but definitely better than the last two, July 13, 2015
This review is from: Terminator Genisys (DVD)
Directed by Alan Taylor (Thor: The Dark World, Game of Thrones) from a screenplay by Laeta Kalogridis (Shutter Island) and Patrick Lussier (Drive Angry), Terminator: Genisys is the latest installment in the Terminator series. It's not as good as The Terminator or T2: Judgment Day, but it's definitely better than either T3: Rise of the Machines or Terminator: Salvation. I think it's significant - and intentional - that while you absolutely need to see the first two films before seeing Terminator: Genisys, you could have skipped the last two films completely and not be missing a thing in this new one.

The characters and the initial part of Terminator: Genisys will be intimately familiar to anyone who's seen the first two films: in a bleak and not so distant future, a massive computer network called Skynet, originally designed as a military defense system, became self-aware and decided that humans were actually the greatest threat to its existence and proceeded to launch a worldwide nuclear attack, destroying most of the world's cities and the population that was in them. Afterwards it proceeded to start hunting down the survivors with all manner of advanced war machines, including cybernetic creations called Terminators that looked human but in fact were nothing but emotionless machines programmed to infiltrate and kill humans. In time, a leader named John Conner (Jason Clarke) arose and organized a resistance movement to fight back against Skynet. His right-hand man is Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney), a man whom he rescued as a child and pretty much raised in the resistance. In the final battle against Skynet, they discover that Skynet has created a time machine and sent a Terminator back in time - to 1984 Los Angeles - to stop John Conner from ever being born by killing a woman named Sarah Conner (Emelia Clarke) who history had recorded would be John Conner's mother. Conner then sends Reese back in time with the mission of finding and stopping the Terminator before it can kill Sarah Conner.

Other than that, I can't say anything about the rest of the story here because so much of it involves time-travel twists that come and just keep coming at you, to the point that to say anything at all would amount to a spoiler. But again, you absolutely need to have seen the first two movies before seeing this one.

I can comment though on the overall film and on the actors taking over the now familiar roles - and the one returning to the role he originally created. Alan Taylor's direction is decent and he keeps things moving at a steady pace, but he's no James Cameron. The CGI is up to par and consistent with the previous films, and yet does manage to throw in a couple of surprises here and there. The screenplay is something of a mixed bag - a plus on how it handles the rather complex time travel issues, but a minus on the dialogue which just doesn't really quite reach the bar and hampers the actors trying to pull off roles that most movie-goers are going to be intimately familiar with.

Jason Clarke (Zero Dark Thirty, The Great Gatsby) has a difficult task in taking on the role of John Conner, particularly given some of the turns the film ends up taking. He acquits himself fairly well, and definitely delivers in the scarred, battle-hardened look department.

Emelia Clarke (Game of Thrones) has the even more difficult task of following in Linda Hamilton's very big iconic footsteps as the new Sarah Conner. (And, in a weird twist of fate, following in fellow GoT star Lena Headey's footsteps from The Sarah Conner Chronicles). She does her best but most of the time I found myself thinking "Linda Hamilton could kick her ass."

Jai Courtney (Insurgent, Divergent) has a different problem in taking on the role of Kyle Reese, in no small part because most people know him as a rather thuggish and highly unsympathetic villain from the Divergent film series. To make matters worse, there's _zero_ chemistry between him and Emelia Clark.

J.K. Simmons has an easier job in that his character, a cop named O'Brien, is entirely new. But he too is limited by the screenplay's second-rate dialogue. And in the end, you probably could have cut his character out of the film completely and no one would notice. Regrettable waste of a really good actor.

And last but far from least, Arnold Schwarzenegger, the Terminator himself, back for a fourth go at the role. "Old, but not obsolete" as his new catch-phrase from this film goes. He's aged considerably, but the plot accounts for that rather nicely and he pulls it off well, showing that even an aging Terminator can still be a wrecking machine when the occasion calls for it.

If I could've, I would've rated Terminator: Genisys as three-and-a-half stars. It's not bad and it does its job reasonably well, but it's just not on the same level as the first two films in the series that really kind of set the standard for everything that follows.

Recommended for fans of the Terminator series, people who like convoluted time-travel plots, and people who like to see that even at sixty-seven, Arnie can still do some decent ass-kicking.

DVD ~ Sandra Bullock
Price: $19.96

5 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not bad, clever at times, and generally funny, but missing something, July 11, 2015
This review is from: Minions (DVD)
Directed by Kyle Balda (The Lorax) and Pierre Coffin (Despicable Me & Despicable Me 2) from a screenplay by Brian Lynch (Hop), Minions is okay, clever in execution with some occasional good bits but not much more than that. Clearly meant to take advantage of the popularity of the babbly little yellow hench-guys from the two Despicable Me films, there's something however missing from Minions that keeps it from rising to the level of the previous films.

If you've seen the trailers for Minions, you already know the basic plot. The film begins with a kind of nature-film prologue tracing the early evolution of the Minions, narrated by Geoffrey Rush (Pirates of the Caribbean) from their prehistoric origins all the way up to 1968 - or as the trailer puts it, the year 42 B.G (Before Gru). The Minions have always had a deep-rooted need to follow and serve a powerful dominating leader, and so three of them - Kevin, Stuart and Bob (like all of the Minions, voiced by Pierre Coffin) - set out to find a new leader to give their tribe meaning and purpose once again. After hearing about something called Villain-Con to be held in Orlando, Florida, the trio end up hitching a ride there with a cheery station wagon driving Nelson family - husband Walter (Michael Keaton), wife Madge (Allison Janney), daughter Tina (Katy Mixon) and son Walter Jr. (Michael Beattie), who also happen to be going to Orlando for some reason (no spoilers here, but the trailer kinda gives it away). When they finally reach Villain Con, Kevin, Stuart and Bob end up getting taken on as henchmen by the world's leading super-villain - or rather villainess - Scarlet Overkill (Sandra Bullock) along with her husband/co-villain Herb (John Hamm), who immediately set the trio the task of stealing the Queen of England's crown. What happens next makes up the rest of the movie, about which I will say little to avoid spoilers.

There are some genuinely funny bits in Minions, my favorite being when the Minions penetrate the Tower of London and take on the guards. And there are a number of clever things about the film's execution, one being the way they work in various musical numbers for the Minions and the other being the language of the Minions you hear throughout the film, which if you know enough you eventually realize isn't gibberish but a mish-mash of words and phrases from probably a couple of dozen languages. (Some of the easier recognized ones are from English, Spanish and French but I was startled at one point to hear one of the Minions say "Terima kaseh" which is Malay for "Thank you". And there are a few "cameos" to keep an eye out for, particularly at Villain-Con where characters you may recognize from other films appear in the background.

But there is, however, something missing from the film. A couple of things actually. The first is that there's no real flow to the film - most of the time it's like a string of sight gags and situations coming one after the other, loosely tied together by the nominal plot. But the second and more critical problem is that there's no real heart in Minions, the way there was in Despicable Me, which is what made the first film really work and the lack of which leaves Minions coming across as somewhat flat, for me at least. The voice actors were all good in their roles and managed to give their characters distinct personalities, but in the end they couldn't give the film what the screenplay they were working with never really had to begin with.

On a side note, the musical score by Heitor Pereira is adequate but largely forgettable, which fits the film.

Recommended, but mainly this film is for Minions fans only.

The Martian
The Martian
by Andy Weir
Edition: Paperback
Price: $9.00
132 used & new from $5.78

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wow! The best, most realistic, Mars mission novel you'll ever read., July 7, 2015
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: The Martian (Paperback)
It's almost pointless to add my two-cents to the over 11K reviews that've already been posted praising this novel, but Andy Weir's The Martian is worth it. I picked it up to read on a trip on the recommendation of a friend of mine and it turned out to be worth every penny I spent on it and more. For a first novel in particular, The Martian works on so many levels it's a marvel. It reminded me a lot of the kind of SF novels I read as a kid, particularly some of Heinlein's work, but with fifty years of science advancements added into the mix. Clearly written by a major science geek, but written in a way that is eminently readable, with believable characters that you really come to care about, paced in a way that keeps you constantly engaged, and with a great mix of drama, humor and the occasional sense of awe.

Mark Watney has a problem. Part of a crew of six on the third manned mission to Mars, Watney ended being stranded on Mars when the mission was scrubbed on its sixth day and a mishap resulted in him being left behind because the other crew members thought he was dead and his body was lost. But Watney wasn't dead and he's determined to stay alive, no matter how bleak his prospects or how daunting the odds are.

I can't say enough about the sense of humor that Weir works into the novel, particular through his narrative character, Mark Watney, whom we hear primarily through his log entries. This one in particular I felt gives you a good sense of what to expect:

"Log Entry: Sol 381

I've been thinking about laws on Mars.
--Yeah, I know, it's a stupid thing to think about, but I have a lot of free time.
--There's an international treaty saying no country can lay claim to anything that's not on Earth. And by another treaty, if you're not in any country's territory, maritime law applies.
--So Mars is 'international waters.'
--NASA is an American nonmilitary organization, and it owns the Hab. So while I'm in the Hab, American law applies. As soon as I step outside, I'm in international waters. Then when I get in the rover, I'm back to American law.
--Here's the cool part. I will eventually go to Schiaparelli and commandeer the Ares 4 lander. Nobody explicitly gave me permission to do this, and they can't until I'm aboard Ares 4 and operating the comm system. After I board Ares 4, before talking to NASA, I till take control of a craft in international waters without permission.
--That makes me a pirate!
--A space pirate!"

Highly, highly recommended.

Dark Life Book 2: Rip Tide
Dark Life Book 2: Rip Tide
by Kat Falls
Edition: Paperback
Price: $6.59
62 used & new from $2.59

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Dark Life was good - Rip Tide is even better!, June 29, 2015
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
Kat Falls' Rip Tide is the sequel to her first novel, Dark Life. I picked up Dark Life on a whim and liked it quite a bit, enough to order Rip Tide because I wanted to read more about the characters and about the undersea world they inhabit. To my surprise and even more to my delight, the sequel proved to be even better than the first book.

In the near-future world of Dark Life, we were introduced to Ty Townson, a fifteen-year-old boy living in the pioneer undersea colony of Benthic Territory, which is located on the ocean floor somewhere off the east coast of the US. Or rather, what was the east coast until a big chunk of it ended up under water due to rising sea levels. His parents were among the first generation to leave the surface world and settle homesteads in the territory, but Ty has lived there almost his entire life. For him and his younger sister Zoe, the undersea world of the territory is _home_. We also met Gemma, a "Topsider" (someone from the surface world) girl Ty's age who came undersea to look for her missing older brother, Richard, whom she discovered now goes by the name of Shade and is the head of a band of outlaws called the Seablite Gang. And we learned about how the children who grow up undersea seem to acquire Dark Gifts - special abilities like Ty's bio-sonar and Zoe's ability to deliver electric shocks - that they don't want people to know about for fear of ending up being treated like lab rats.

Rip Tide begins just a few months after where Dark Life ended, with the story once again being told from Ty's point of view. Ty's parents are in the process of opening a new market for Benthic Territory settlers' crops. But it's not as simple as it sounds as the potential buyers are the "surfs", a group of sea dwellers who live in enormous globe-shaped floating vessels called townships (literally town-ships) and are viewed with wary suspicion at best by most settlers. And who in turn view most settlers with equal suspicion and often with open hostility, not, as it turns out, without reason. Things quickly go downhill when Ty discovers a sunken township that has been sabotaged and chained to the sea floor, and later when his parents are kidnapped by the very surfs they were meeting with to negotiate the trade deal. And on top of finding his parents and solving the mystery of who's been attacking the surfers' towhships, Ty also has to figure out what's going on with Gemma who seems to have developed sudden but intense panic attacks while deep sea diving. Which is a real problem for an undersea boy like Ty since he's also having typical fifteen-year-old boy problems figuring out how he feels about Gemma and just what he should do about it.

What I particularly liked about Rip Tide was how Falls brings out YA issues like learning to see the world differently as new experiences give you new perspectives, even when those perspectives are things you don't want to believe. And like having to make decisions even when you're not sure of the outcome, trying to figure out who you can trust and how much, and learning that even people whom you think you know can still end up surprising you.

Highly recommended for anyone who likes a good scifi novel with engaging characters and particularly for anyone who likes a story set in the other great frontier, the world under the sea..

Gett: The Trial of Viviane Amsalem
Gett: The Trial of Viviane Amsalem
DVD ~ Simon Abkarian
Price: $22.99
15 used & new from $18.44

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Kafka-esque nightmare of Israeli divorce, June 19, 2015
Written and directed by Ronit Elkabetz and her brother Shlomi Elkabetz, Gett: The Trial of Viviane Amsalem is a fascinating look into something few people outside of Israel are familiar: the Kafka-esque nightmare a woman has to go through get a divorce in Israel if her husband is unwilling to grant one. (Note: the word "Gett" is the Hebrew word for the divorce document that the husband must present to the wife granting the divorce.)

A bit of background is necessary. Because of its complex history, Israel's system of marriage and divorce laws essentially date back to when it was part of the Ottoman Empire and only religious marriages were considered valid. For Jews, that meant strict orthodox rules govern both marriage and divorce. And because in modern Israel no single political party has enough clout to form a government by itself, it has always been necessary for the larger parties to form coalitions with smaller parties in order to have enough votes to form a government. This gives the smaller parties a level of influence completely out of proportion to their size, in particular the orthodox religious parties. As a result, even though only about 20% of Israeli Jews are Orthodox, Orthodox Judaism has control over all marriage and divorce among Jewish Israelis. There is no secular marriage for Jews in Israel (unless they get married outside of Israel, which many choose to do). Any application for divorce in Israel goes to a rabbinical court, which decides the matter based on orthodox religious law. Which makes divorce difficult in general and extremely difficult if one party is unwilling to cooperate.

The film opens in an Israeli rabbinical court where we first meet Viviane Amsalem (compellingly played by Ronit Elkabetz), an Israeli woman who has been trying - unsuccessfully - for three years to get a divorce from her cold manipulative husband of twenty years, Elisha (Simon Abkarian). Viviane is represented by a sympathetic secular lawyer, Carmel Ben Tovim (Menahe Noy). Her husband is being represented by his older brother, Shimon (Sasson Gabai), a buffoonish self-appointed lawyer who is nonetheless sly enough to know how to say the things he knows the court's rabbinical judges want to hear.

And what the rabbinical judges really want is for Viviane to quit bothering them and go back to her husband. With absurdist repetition, the hearing gets delayed again and again when Elisha first refuses to show up, then appears but refuses to cooperate, or cooperates only to delay the process, each delay enabled by the decisions of the judges. By orthodox law, the grounds for divorce are extremely limited, and do not include things like incompatibility, irreconcilable differences, or even mental or emotional cruelty, all of which are manifestly evident in Viviane's unfortunate marriage. The judges piously claim their hands are tied by the law, but it is clear at every moment that the law and the judges favor the husband. Every session ends with the case unresolved, a quick fade-to-black, and then the trial resumes with a notation reading "two months later" or "three months later" or "six."

Taking place entirely either in the small spare courtroom or the waiting room outside, Gett has a very stark and claustrophobic feel to it, which works in subtle ways to make the viewer feel how Viviane feels - trapped in an endless legalistic maze with a husband she desperately wants to get away from. The starkness is accentuated by a complete absence of a musical score. At 115 minutes, the film is not really that long, but the endless continuations from one court date to the next with constant delays and setbacks make it feel much longer, which also makes the viewer feel how Viviane feels, that this nightmare will never end.

The acting is in a word, superb. Ronit Elkabetz's Viviane is a study in endurance pushed to its limits, pushed to the breaking point at times when she either explodes in rage or breaks into barely controlled laughter at the absurdity of it all, like when her sister testifies loudly and in humiliating detail what her marriage to Elisha is like, ignoring and at times bulldozing right over the rabbinical judges' efforts to shut her up. Simon Abkarian's Elisha is a more subtle study, done with nuanced facial expressions and telling glances that show far better than words how manipulative he is and how, though he insists he loves Viviane, he has no real understanding of what the word even means.

Note: Though Gett: The Trial of Viviane Amsalem as a film stands on its own, apparently it is also the final part of a trilogy written and directed by the Elkabetz siblings. I cannot comment personally on the first two films, not having seen either of them, but from what I've read, in 2004's "To Take a Wife," Viviane is a young mother but her marriage to Elisha is already stressed, and in the second film, 2008's "7 Days," more conflict emerges as the extended family sits shiva over the death of one of her brothers.

Highly, highly recommended.

When Marnie Was There - When Marnie Was There (Omoide no Marnie) (2DVDS) [Japan DVD] VWDZ-8216
When Marnie Was There - When Marnie Was There (Omoide no Marnie) (2DVDS) [Japan DVD] VWDZ-8216
28 used & new from $43.65

2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Lovely Ghibli-style animation but pace is overly slow, June 12, 2015
Directed by Hiromasa Yonebayashi (The Secret World of Arrietty) from a screenplay by Yonebayashi, Keiko Niwa and Masashi Ando, When Marnie Was There is the latest film from Studio Ghibli. Based on the 1967 novel of the same name by Joan G. Robinson, When Marnie Was There tells the story of Anna, a twelve-year-old girl who spends a summer out in a small rural seaside town where she's been sent for her health. And where she comes across an old house and a mystery that tug at her for some reason.

My only problem with When Marnie Was There was that I found the pacing to be overly slow, particularly in the first half of the film. The result is that while the run-time is only 103 minutes, which is actually shorter than some other recent Studio Ghibli films like The Tale of the Princess Kaguya and The Wind Rises, it felt longer

Recommended for anyone who loves Studio Ghibli animation.

Dark Life: Book 1
Dark Life: Book 1
by Kat Falls
Edition: Paperback
Price: $6.53
66 used & new from $0.01

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An engaging and highly readable YA sci-fi novel set in the other new frontier: the ocean floor, June 3, 2015
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Dark Life: Book 1 (Paperback)
I picked up Kat Falls' Dark Life on a whim and was very pleased to find it to be well worth the money. Falls is a relatively new author (to me, anyway) and Dark Life was her debut novel.

Ty is a fifteen-year-old boy living in the pioneer undersea colony of Benthic Territory, which is located on the ocean floor somewhere off the east coast of the US. Or rather, what was the east coast until a big chunk of it ended up under water due to rising sea levels. His parents were among the first generation to leave the surface world and settle homesteads in the territory, but Ty has lived there almost his entire life. For him and his younger sister Zoe, the undersea world of the territory is _home_.

For the most part, life in the territory is good. Or was until Ty comes across a derelict sub on the edge of the territory, a prospector's sub that was apparently attacked by an outlaw band called the Seablite Gang. As Ty investigates the sub, the situation immediately becomes further complicated when he unexpectedly runs into a "Topsider" (someone from the surface world) on the sub, a girl his own age named Gemma who's come down into his world looking for her missing older brother.

The author, Falls, is very good at immediately immersing you in the world of Dark Life, bringing it vividly into reality around the reader from the very beginning:

"I peered into the deep-sea canyon, hoping to spot a toppled skyscraper. Maybe even the Statue of Liberty. But there was no sign of the old East Coast, just a sheer drop into darkness.
--A ball of light shot past me - a vampire squid, trailing neon blue. The glowing cloud swirled around my helmet. Careful not to break it up, I drifted onto my knees, mesmerized. But my trance was cut short by a series of green sparks bursting out of the gorge. I fell back, every muscle in my body tense. Only one fish glittered like an emerald and traveled in a pack: the green lantern shark. Twelve inches long and deadly as piranhas, they could rip apart something twenty times their size. Forget what they could do to a human.
--I should have seen them coming, even this deep. I should have known the squid had squirted its radiant goo to divert a predator. And now my helmet's crown lights served as an even brighter beacon. With a jab to my wrist screen, I snapped them off, but it was too late - I couldn't unring that dinner bell.
--I pried a flare gun from my belt and fired into the midst of the electric green frenzy. Two heartbeats later, light exploded over the canyon, shocking the sharks into stillness, eyes and teeth glittering. Quickly, I scooped the anchor of my mantaboard out of the muck and hauled myself onto it. Lying on my stomach with my legs dangling, I twisted the handgrips and took off, making serious wake. If my lungs hadn't been filled with Liquigen, I would've whooped aloud.
--Not that I was in the clear. As soon as the flare died, the sharks would be on me like suckerfish on a whale. I thought about burying myself in the thick ooze of the sea floor. Bedding down with the boulder-sized clams had worked before. I chanced a look over my shoulder. Sure enough, the darkness twinkled with stars - vicious little stars, shooting my way."

Falls is also very good at giving depth to her younger characters, capturing the feel of both what it is like to be that age and what it would be like to be living in the very different world of Dark Life, with Ty who has grown up in his undersea pioneer settlement and Gemma who grew up in her over-crowded Topsider world. And I absolutely adored Ty's younger sister Zoe who insists on keeping dangerous sea creatures as pets and who everyone who knows her tries to avoid making angry. In truth the only reason I rated this book 4 stars instead of 5 was that I felt the characterizations of the adults were not on the same level or depth as that of the younger characters. That said, I definitely want to read the sequel, Rip Tide, that's already been published.

Highly recommended not only for young adults but for anyone who likes well-written science fiction with engaging characters in a different setting.

Tomorrowland [Blu-ray]
Tomorrowland [Blu-ray]
Price: $24.77

6 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Soars with wonder for the first half, but then stumbles with clumsy explanations and heavy-handed message in the second, May 29, 2015
This review is from: Tomorrowland [Blu-ray] (Blu-ray)
Directed by Brad Bird (The Incredibles, Ratatouille) from a screenplay by Bird and Damon Lindelof (Lost, World War Z, Star Trek Into Darkness), Tomorrowland is something of a mixed bag. The first half of the movie absolutely soars with an ever-mounting sense of wonder and adventure, but then it stumbles and nearly falls under clumsy explanations and a heavy-handed message. It does salvage some of the earlier feeling towards the very end, but it's not enough to make up for the long wrong turn things seemed to take in the second half.

The film begins with a man named Frank Walker (George Clooney) talking to the screen as if either making a recording or perhaps talking to an audience we cannot see. He keeps getting interrupted by a girl's voice from off-screen, telling him how he _should_ be telling the story and suggesting that he start at the beginning.

Things then flash back to the 1964 World's Fair in New York where we see a 12-year-old Frank Walker (Thomas Robinson) carrying around an invention - a prototype jetpack he's made from vacuum cleaner parts - that he hopes will impress one of the fair's sponsors, David Nix (Hugh Laurie). Nix is unimpressed and dismisses Frank's efforts as impractical. A young girl named Athena (Raffey Cassidy) however, is impressed by young Frank's creativity and gives him an embossed pin with a large "T" on it, telling him to follow her when she departs with Nix on one of the fair's rides. Curious, Frank sneaks onto the ride behind Nix's party, is surprised when his pin is suddenly scanned and is even more surprised when the ride then mysteriously transports him from 1964 New York to a futuristic place called Tomorrowland. To say more of this scene would be a spoiler, other than to mention that Tomorrowland is truly a place of wonder.

Flash forward to our present, where we meet Casey Newton (Britt Robertson), a tech-savvy and enterprising young girl who lives with her NASA engineer father Eddie Newton (Tim McGraw) and younger brother Nate (Pierce Gagnon) in Cape Canaveral, Florida. Her father, however, is soon to be unemployed once the deconstruction crews finish dismantling NASA's last remaining launch station. Determined not to let this happen, Casey sneaks out at night and uses her knowledge and skills to sabotage the work cranes at the site to put off the day of reckoning. One night however she is caught in the act and arrested. Upon her release the next morning, Casey's stuff is returned to her, along with a pin she's never seen before but we have: the embossed pin with the big "T". When she picks it up though, suddenly everything around her changes and she finds herself in an open field outside of Tomorrowland. This much you would have learned from the movie's trailers, but what comes next you'll have to see for yourself. And it's really worth seeing.

It doesn't give away anything to say that Casey ends up tracking down the now-adult Frank in her quest of finding Tomorrowland. And that once she finds him, things really kick into high gear in a big way.

As someone old enough to remember both Disneyland's original Tomorrowland and the 1964 New York World's Fair, the thing that moved me the most about this film was how much it captured the feel of the time, the atmosphere of excitement, a sense of boundless optimism combined with a firm belief that the future was going to be a wondrous place where anything would be possible, and that science and technology would take us there. It was a time of great excitement: the space program was at its height, a man walked on the moon, polio was being eliminated, the heart transplant was achieved. Anything and everything seemed not only possible but achievable. Tomorrowland recreates that spirit wonderfully.

One thing I particularly liked was a scene where Casey goes to a scifi & pop-culture memorabilia shop called Blast From the Past which is a visual feast and treasure trove of scifi references in general and self-references to the film's various contributors. This is the sort of thing you really want the DVD for so that you can watch it again and again and try to catch or spot all of them (there are dozens). You know from the beginning that the writers are having fun when the proprietors (played by Keegan-Michael Key and Kathryn Hahn) introduce themselves as Hugo Gernsback (legendary writer, editor and publisher regarded as "the Father of Science Fiction) and Ursula (for Ursula K. Leguin, legendary scifi author and winner of two "Hugo" awards).

The music score by Michael Giacchino (Up, Ratatouille, Star Trek Into Darkness) is very nicely done and really adds to the sense of wonder and discovery that permeates the best parts of the film. The cinematography by Claudio Miranda (Life of Pi, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button) is nothing less than spectacular, managing to convincingly capture and convey the look and feel of everything from the 1964 New York World's Fair and current day Florida to the imagined futuristic Tomorrowland.

The thing that keeps Tomorrowland from being the film it could have been is when it starts trying to explain everything in the second half of the film. The explanations are clumsy and have a forced feel to them, and actually end up raising more questions than they answer as well as creating plot-holes that undermine a lot of what was built up in the first half. And then there's 'The Message' that is so thick and heavy it feels like it's being laid on with a cement mixer. The less said about any of this the better - I only mention it as a caution of what to expect from the film as a whole. To its credit, Tomorrowland does make something of a comeback at the end, which is why I gave it 4 stars instead of 3. I only wish that Bird and Lindelof had trusted their instincts - and their audience - more and simply let the film speak for itself.

Recommended for the first half, which if you're lucky, will be what stays with you after the film is done.

Woman in Gold
Woman in Gold
DVD ~ Ryan Reynolds
Price: $14.89
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A beautifully shot, wonderfully acted film based on a remarkable true story, May 19, 2015
This review is from: Woman in Gold (DVD)
Directed by Simon Curtis (My Week With Marilyn) from a screenplay by first-time screenwriter Alexi Kaye Campbell, Woman in Gold is a beautifully shot, wonderfully acted film based on a remarkable true story.

The film begins with a flashback to Vienna, Austria in 1907, where a young woman named Adele Bloch-Bauer (Antje Traue) is posing for a portrait being painted by the famous artist Gustav Klimt (Moritz Bleibtreu) who was also a friend of the family. The painting's actual title was "Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I", but it became more famously known as Woman In Gold and was considered Klimt's greatest work.

Flash forward to 1990's Los Angeles, where Maria Altmann (magnificently played by Helen Mirren) is an elderly Jewish woman who runs a small shop. When she was young, however, her family was one of the most prominent families in Vienna, Austria. At least they were until Nazi Germany annexed Austria in the Anschluss of 1938. While going through the effects of her recently deceased sister, she comes across some letters relating to the loss of some significant works of art that were taken from her family by the Nazis, one of which was Klimt's famous Woman in Gold. For Maria, the loss was particularly painful as the woman in the painting was her beloved aunt Adele, who had died when Maria was still a young girl. Reading the letters, Maria sees what she feels is a chance for justice, not only for herself and her family but for other victims of the Nazis who had everything stolen from them. Unsure where to begin, she consults her circle of friends and ends up finding Randy Schoenberg (Ryan Reynolds), a young lawyer who's just beginning his career with something of a stumbling start. Despite his reluctance to get involved with what he thinks is a fanciful tale, Randy soon finds himself drawn into Maria's quest. At first it's because of what he finds out about the painting's estimated value, but as time goes on, it's because he begins to feel the weight of his personal connection to the events of that time and place and that he's been given the opportunity to accomplish something that actually matters.

The musical score by Hans Zimmer (Interstellar, The Lion King) and Martin Phipps (The Flying Scotsman) is subtly evocative, enhancing but never overpowering what is transpiring on the screen.

Highly recommended.

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